When you walk down the aisle at the grocery store, you probably notice all the fancy descriptions food marketers use to pitch their products as a healthy option. Words like “organic,” “multi-grain” and “GMO-free” are all common descriptions, but maybe you’ve also seen foods marketed as “packed with probiotics” or “filled with prebiotics.” While you may inherently think that these are good things to have in your diet, you may not be familiar with these terms and what prebiotics or probiotics do for your body. In today’s blog, we explain the differences between prebiotics and probiotics, and how a healthy balance can be good for your gastrointestinal health.
What Are Probiotics And Prebiotics?
First, let’s take a closer look at both probiotics and prebiotics:
- Probiotics – Probiotics are live bacteria that are found in different foods and supplements that help to provide a wide range of health benefits. Probiotics help to replenish healthy bacteria in your stomach that aid with digestion and other gastrointestinal tasks. Having optimal healthy gut bacteria can also help to control symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease or lactose intolerance.
- Prebiotics – Prebiotics are compounds that are found in carbohydrates and fibers that our bodies cannot digest on their own. However, the healthy bacteria in our gut end up consuming these compounds, which helps the healthy bacteria continue to thrive in our gut. Prebiotics essentially help to fuel probiotics, and when you have an optimal ratio of both, certain gastrointestinal functions like hormone production and immune responses can be improved.
It’s good to have a healthy balance of both prebiotics and probiotics to regulate a number of GI functions, so which foods should you look for in order to get the right amount of each in your diet?
- Probiotic Foods – Plain yogurt is naturally high in probiotics, as are certain fermented foods like kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut and pickled vegetables. However, be aware of pasteurized fermented foods, as this process ends up killing the healthy bacteria that you’re looking for when searching for probiotic-packed foods.
- Prebiotic Foods – Fruits and vegetables can be a good source of prebiotics. Foods like onions, bananas, garlic, asparagus, apples, potatoes, oats and honey can all be ideal sources of prebiotics.
You can also get both probiotics and prebiotics from supplements, although getting them naturally from food sources is considered the preferred method. If you’re struggling to get enough from your diet alone, talk to a gastrointestinal specialist like Dr. Bhatti to learn more about which supplements would be right for your situation.
We can affect our gut health more than we may realize by making smart dietary choices and striving to maintain an ideal gut bacteria balance, and that starts with probiotics and prebiotics! For more information about either, or to talk to a gastrointestinal specialist about any digestive issues you’ve been dealing with, reach out to Dr. Bhatti and the team at Bhatti GI Consultants today at (952) 368-3800.